John 19:15 reads, “They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’”
This is one of the saddest scenes in the story of Jesus’ arrest and trial, which started in Chapter 18 with the betrayal of Judas. Once again, the children of Israel rejected God’s offer to be their King. It reminds me of another time that the children of Israel rejected God’s offer to be their sole monarch.
The story takes place in 1 Samuel 8:19-20, which reads, “But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
Even though Samuel warned them that this king would lord over them with an iron fist, Israel wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted their king to look like all the other kings in the world.
Fast forward to the Gospel of John, and things have not changed much. The children of Israel rejected Jesus because he didn’t look like the other kings in the world. In other words, Jesus was not willing to go to battle to defeat the Roman Empire, at least not in the way they thought he should.
What Jesus was willing to do was defeat Rome and all the oppressive powers of the world in a different way. He was willing to die for all, including the Gentiles, so we all could have a new kind of life on earth and so that we all could one day live with him in a place where time is swallowed up by eternity. Jesus was thinking eternal King while the children of Israel were thinking earthly king. Jesus was thinking timeless while Israel was thinking today.
But, before we get all judgmental about the children of Israel, we must look at our own modern context. Do we not crave human leadership more than God’s leadership more often than not? Do we not trust in human power more than God’s power more times than we care to admit? Do we not do things with human efforts more than we do them with God’s anointing? While we may not be literally asking for a human king, our actions may say something else.
On this Maundy Thursday, as we prepare to observe the Last Supper and look soberly towards Good Friday, let’s not forget that even though the world places human kings above God, we have a Messiah who has paid the full price to be our Eternal King.
Today, as you reflect, ask God to search your heart and reveal to you any area where you have placed human ways above God’s ways. Remember that God’s ways are always best. Remember that God does not lord over you as a human king would. Remember the real monarch, the one willing to suffer and die for you. Remember Jesus, Our Eternal King.